The mountain in Talaja, Gujarat, India.
Commenting on India’s defeat in yesterday’s cricket World Cup semifinal match against Australia is not mandatory for every Indian. It is entirely voluntary. And I don’t feel enthused enough to volunteer. Instead, I am going to tell you about my life’s first heat stroke, a very brief one but a heat stroke nevertheless.
Defying the advice of a local acquaintance, I decided to shoot atop a solid lava rock mountain in temperatures touching 40 degrees Celsius in Talaja minutes after eating a rich Kathiawadi lunch. The crisply baked hot air emanating from the rocks made the actual heat feel close to 50 degrees Celsius. It is elementary that you do not climb a mountain in such heat immediately after lunch. That is like rolling out the red carpet for a heat stroke.
Under the circumstances, I did very well right until the time to begin the descent. Before the descent I had to climb about 15 very steep rocky steps that plateaued out near a spectacular cave. That is when my body began to feel weird. Every step felt like walking in solid lead boots. The breathing was strained and short. I could tell that there was a heat stroke approaching because of one tell-tale sign—on the sides of my eyes there began to appear concentric circles. I immediately removed the camera gear off of my shoulders and sat down on a burning hot rock. I was too far from any shadow.
Seconds later, I knew I had to lay down flat on the rocky floor. My body was already mildly baked by then. The decision to stay flat on the floor helped despite the heat from the ground. I wetted my handkerchief and put it on my head. Three or four minutes later, I had begun to regain normalcy. I went up a few more steps to the shadowed plateau and rested some more. Soon enough, I was back on my feet taking confident steps down the mountain.
Heat strokes can be deadly if you do not know the signs. Having grown up in Ahmedabad, where temperatures routinely touch 45 degrees Celsius, I have some intuitive sense about them. However, suffering one atop a rocky mountain is a different matter altogether. Mountains do not rush to help.
Come to think of it, I am sure the Indian cricket team is feeling a version of a heat stroke just about now.